Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nothing Quite Like Youth Ministry

Last night was the most exciting, crazy, exhausting, bizzare part of my week. After all, when else does a marshmallow dodgeball game end with everyone getting covered in flour? When else would nametages get artistically stuck to a car (sorry, J!)? When else do you have to scramble to find scissors to release a mound of teenagers from a tangled mess of green yarn? When else do you laugh yourself dizzy over planned activities that turn to hilarious chaos, and then catch your breath enough to say, "Ok, what was I thinking? Maybe that wasn't such a good idea! Note to self..." If you have ever worked in youth ministry, you already know the answer.

Just one evening with fourteen teenagers from Sudan, Chad, Somolia, and Burma made me remember how much I love youth ministry. I love taking time to talk with teens, whether they are sitting out of a game because they broke a nail or they are trying to slink off to lock-pick a volunteer's car with a paperclip (again - sorry, J!). I love affirming their good choices and their talents, I love listening to them talk to each other and tell me their stories, I love being able to give them responsibilities they can do to help and make a difference.

I also love being a part of a team of people who are also passionate about serving teens - people who spend an hour driving around picking up kids in a big van, people who sit in a garage with one kid and patiently help them with their math homework all evening, people who take the time to learn to speak the language of a younger generation that needs to be understood... people who are there to brush the flour off your back at the end of the night.

Youth ministry - at its very best - is tough. You feel highs and lows every day... you learn what it means to pray without ceasing for the kids who have become your family... you have your heart broken and your hope renewed over and over again. There is nothing quite like it... nothing quite so beautiful and blessed. And I'm so glad I get to be a part of it. Pray for the teenagers who come to International House - pray that as we build relationships with them that they will see Jesus and be drawn to him. And if you haven't already, try out serving in a youth ministry somehow, whether in a big group or investing in one teenager. It's an experience you won't regret.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New friends in Fort Wayne

It is 53 degrees F and raining today, and isn't going to get much warmer all week. This was my first morning back on my hot oatmeal breakfast regimen, and it came sooner than I expected. I'm wearing one of my favorite sweaters and warm socks, and the probability of drinking four cups of tea today is pretty high!

The other day, Pam took me to visit her best friend, Carissa, and her family. Carissa made amazingly cheesy white chicken chili (yummmmmmm...), and then we played dress-up and watched "Monkey George" (Curious George) with the girls before their bed time. Once the girls went to bed, we "adults" got to do grown-up things like eat triple-chocolate brownies and ice cream and play games like Funglish and Quiddler. It was a blast! You like my dress-up costume? Emily designed it herself. Sorry about the blurriness of the picture, but I'm sure anyone with a three-year-old understands...

Of course, the big question on everyone's mind who knows me very well and is highly aware of my personal limitations: "How did you get in the house?" Well... it just so happens that Carissa's husband is an engineer, and seemed a bit eager to excercise his building skills. He spent all afternoon perfecting a "to code" ramp for their two front steps. Once the masterpiece was finished, it worked like a charm (my dad would be so impressed!). The ramps are also portable, so they can stay in the garage and come out any time I want to come over. Isn't that cool? Here's a shot of Chris hard at work...

So I am thanking God for some new friends in my life, who make me feel so loved and welcome!

Monday, September 27, 2010

There's more than corn in Indiana

"For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations." - Isaiah 61:11

This summer, my friend Pam had this idea that I should get my picture taken in a cornfield in Indiana, with the caption "There's more than corn in Indiana," signifying the work of God going on in Fort Wayne. So ever since I got back, we've been trying to find a good cornfield to do this photo shoot... with some urgency, since the corn is already being harvested.

I woke up this morning to a crisp and cool and sunny autumn day, and I was itching for a breath of fresh air, so Pam and I strolled through the acre-deep backyard of International House. Imagine our surprise when we reached the little community garden where people are growing tomatoes, pumpkins, chile peppers, and - corn! It's photo shoot time!

Sometimes we see the obvious in life and so we are unimpressed and uninspired. When you drive across the wide, flat plains of Indiana, all you see for miles and miles are cornfields. In I-House, you see a bunch of internationals who don't speak English "bery goot," who eat different food, and who don't seem to know how to regulate room temperature on a thermostat. But thank God that he sees more than we see, and that his work is greater than our own! He doesn't see foreigners and strangers, but those he loves and longs to redeem and set free.

While the farmers plant the kernals in the ground, we plant the seeds of good news in the hearts of those we love. While the farmers care for the sprouts and water them and wait, we pray and build relationship and continue in love, trusting that the seeds will grow up and produce a good fruit. Now the farmers look out on their fields and see a great crop that is ready for harvest... and Jesus says that our fields are as such. He sees hearts ready and eager to receive and follow him. When we are uncertain of the effect of the gospel on these hearts, he sees growth. And it will continue to grow - to spring up, in fact, from all nations, to the glory and praise of the Lord!

When you see cornfields, or you eat the harvested corn this year, pray for the people who represent the nations in Fort Wayne. Thank God for the seeds that are growing in their hearts, and ask him to yield a bountiful harvest!